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Trying 16-18 Year Olds As ‘Adults’ Under An Amended Juvenile Justice Act Is Just Plain Wrong

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By Komal Ganotra:

We don’t currently have a copy of the new bill, however according to various media reports it is clear that the cabinet has approved the amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act. One of the major amendment approved by the cabinet includes treating juveniles between the age of 16 to 18 years as adults in cases of committing heinous offences. This particular change has taken place despite of clear recommendation of the parliamentary standing committee and members of the civil society opposing the particular clause. This is likely to have great implications and has the potential to challenge the whole justice paradigm for children – moving away from reformative to punitive. Through the change in the proposed Bill, children may be forced to spend their formative and productive years behind bars, rather than being reintegrated with society.

In India, the juvenile crime from the period 1990 to 2012 ranged between 0.5 to 1.2 per cent of total crimes committed. Juvenile crimes were only 1.2 per cent in 2012 and 2013 as compared to the child population of 472 million in 2013. Further analysis shows that out of the total number of juvenile cases, 79% belonged to families whose annual income levels were below Rs. 50,000/- , a telling fact that gives us an insight into their lives and struggles. Only 5,812 have completed their secondary education; 8,392 have never been to school, while almost equal proportions have studied at primary and above primary levels (13984 and 15423 respectively). The emphasis therefore at a systemic level, needs to be much more in terms of preventive policies and mechanism that can ensure a protective environment for each child.

About the author: Komal Ganotra is Director, Policy Research and Advocacy, CRY-Child Rights and You

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  1. Cees Tompot

    It is quite clear that human brains are not full-grown till we reach the age of 20 for girls and 23 for boys. (averages of course.) One of the consequences is that we not always can link action and result of the action on beforehand. A adolescent just is not an adult. Then, what are the results of putting youngsters away? Will they come out better or will they be even more frustrated and deprived of chances? Of course I don’t say that they should be pampered, not at all. But punishment has to be in accordance with the crime and with the person of the criminal. The temporary satisfaction of revenge never can compensate for the harm done to the criminal youngster when put in jail amongst adult criminals.

  2. shiv vasisht

    At what age does a child arrive into maturity? The UN demands that the minimum age be fixed at 18, even though different countries have their own norms. In Germany, the minimum age is 16 for all matters related to sex, and not 18 as would be the case in the rest of the world. In France, because the law prohibits incarceration of the under-18, it has led to making the young the preferred drug carriers for the underworld.
    Why are we so hung up on 18 being the age of adulthood, when we ourselves are guilty of treating anybody old enough to work as an adult, be it the chai-boy at the dhaba in the neighborhood, or the servant at home. Why don’t we go shouting out with articles like these when we know that immigrant (slum and pavement dwellers’) children, as young as 10-11 years old, are being exploited by their own, and by the city dwellers of their new homes every day? At what age do these children learn of the facts of life, and at what age do we declare that they are still innocent children, who can be reformed? The boy who did the greatest harm to the December 16 rape victim – by enticing her into the bus, and later by pushing a metal rod into her anus at the end of her ordeal, with the words, “mar, saali”, was the youngest of them all, a juvenile short of a few months of “adulthood”. Why should he still be treated any differently from any of the others?
    Such articles that speak with shock about the innocence of children – till they are 18, at least – reek of an absolute lack of understanding of present societal realities, and of basic adolescent growth, per se.
    An experiment in the 1960s in New York, aimed at instilling fear into juveniles in custody, involved taking them to “adult” prisons, where they were thrown a scare by the inmates did more to change their mindset than any moral logic. In a country where the average age is dropping to among the lowest in the world, it is high time we decided what is really the age of “adulthood”.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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